(When) Is Fan-fiction Okay?

So this is something I’ve been thinking about for a REALLY long time…but I’ve been inspired to share my thoughts by the recent revelation (to me at least) that someone has written a sequel to the Harry Potter series. Writing this post has actually helped me clarify my position in my own head. I’ve always said I’m not a big ‘fan’ of fan-fiction, but maybe I am…just a little bit.

A Disclaimer:

First, let me be clear, I have different feelings toward different ‘types’ of fan-fiction. I guess it depends on how you define fan-fiction really. I’m being really broad here and including anything that was:

  • Originally set in a ‘universe’ created by another author.
  • Brings characters from another author’s ‘universe’ into the real world or another ‘universe’ of their own creation.

Generally I mean that a writer has taken characters or settings that exist only in a work of fiction and placed them in their own writing.

Why DID I hate fan-fiction?

If I’m honest, what originally turned me against fan-fiction to begin with was a couple of really bad Pride and Prejudice rip-offs, and Geraldine Brooks’ March. What these stories had in common was that they used characters I loved in a way that I felt was not in the spirit of the original.

What I do love are stories where a familiar character or setting is turned on it’s head, provided it’s done lightheartedly. I love Jasper Fforde‘s ‘Thursday Next’ books, and anything by Gregory Maguire. It’s not technically fan-fiction, but I love Lost in Austen and Once Upon a Time (both TV series) for similar reasons.

So it turns out what I really hate about fan-fiction (as opposed to hating the whole genre) is

  • when it takes itself too seriously
  • when it doesn’t really gel with my understanding of the original
  • when it pretends to be original work by changing the names just enough…
  • and of course any time it gets pornographic (that’s SO unnecessary!!)

One more issue…

What about ‘authorised sequels’, where a writer (usually, but not always a family member) gets permission from the estate of a deceased author to write more stories based in the same universe? Obviously in those situations the writer should have a better insight into the mind of the original author than most, but who says they’ve got the same level of talent? The jury’s out on this one…maybe I’ll read a couple and let you know what I think then…

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “(When) Is Fan-fiction Okay?

  1. Pingback: The Wayward Writer Returns | My Infernal Imagination

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